In general of course, this movie was extremely hard to watch. The cinematography was excellent and made it so much more vivid, for better or for worse. I definitely agree with Eos, afterwards I felt drained and unable to really speak, which I’m feeling even now.
One thing I noticed was that Spielburg really utilized contrast, for example the first murder we see on screen immediately followed by a playful nude scene, or the lively piano music being played during the killings of the people hiding in the house. I respected that on a technical level and it definitely fulfilled its purpose of hammering in the difference between people’s lives and their priorities, but it was downright painful to watch.
I confess, I didn’t fully watch the movie, for most of it I was curled up with my hands over my ears and my eyes closed trying to breathe normally, because it was too much. Even with that limited experience however, it left a lasting impact that I doubt will escape me anytime soon.
Power was an interesting theme throughout the movie, especially in the conversation between Schindler and Goeth. 617capecod5 touched upon the point I’m about to make by saying, “Schindler talks about pardoning people with Amon Goeth, he means that when you pardon someone you demonstrate just how much power you really have. You have enough power to punish them, but you demonstrate the further extent of your power by going beyond simple authority power of punishment…” Going beyond simply carrying punishment out not only shows your power, it shows leadership, which is what Schindler seemed to link together.
His view of power is the ability to choose how you affect others, for example, choosing whether someone lives or dies. Having someone’s life in your hands, and then “pardoning” them shows how their life depends on your whims, but it’s more than that.
The only situation I can think to relate this to is catching a teen committing a crime, and choosing to let them go instead of punishing them. Although Jewish people of course didn’t do anything wrong, how the Nazis treated them could determine their future, or lack thereof. Because of this, Schindler saw an opportunity to further some people’s careers and lives, while Goeth saw an opportunity to take lives away. Instead of using power to lead and improve the circumstances of the people he was relatively in charge of, Goeth instead took advantage of his power to enact his sadistic tendencies. In my opinion, Goeth’s view of power was the ability to cause destruction without consequences, so he confused “power” with “invincibility”.
As for the question of whether or not we would be an “upstander” ourselves, I would like to say that I would risk my life to save others, and maybe I would, but I just don’t know. I know that if my family were in danger, or even in potential danger, I would do anything to help them. I would do the same for a child, or a fellow girl, but there’s no way to predict what exactly we would do, and that’s why people say that crises reveal one’s true character. One line that cannot be crossed is endangering others for the sake of yourself. An example of this is selling someone else out, or letting someone else take the fall for something you do. Doing those things means that you value your own life more than the life of others, which isn’t fair.
As for Schindler, and how he made the switch from “bystander” to “upstander”, I can’t figure it out, and maybe we shouldn’t seek to. He seemed like the kind of man who would break laws and social rules with no problem, but he would die before going against his personal code. Due to his naturally morally grey character (womanizing, profiteering, etc.), he didn’t guide himself by a set of pre-written principles, but rather by his own. The labor camps and the possession of Jewish houses and businesses didn’t violate his code because it benefitted him, and he could still maintain relatively peaceful relations with the Jewish people, but there’s no way he could be friendly with his workers while turning a blind eye to their murders. It was almost as if a switch went of in his brain, perhaps at the sight of the girl in the red coat, a child who clearly did not belong in the heinous situation she was in. Nevertheless, something suddenly hit him that these were his people, and no one was allowed to hurt his people. His fiercely protective, almost territorial, urge to protect his workers was remarkable, maybe due to his inexperience with a large workforce and his inability to see them as just one group of people, but rather as individuals.
No matter what the reason was, his actions stand true and are heroic. My feelings about Schindler were perfectly echoed in his scene at the end where he was open about his immoral past. He said all of the things that I disliked about him, but despite his history, the people he saved didn’t care because he saved them and what he was most worried about is that he didn’t save enough, and that resembles true unfettered heroism.